Nathan Drake’s jovial exploration of death

Over the past couple of months I have been going through PlayStation games that I missed out on due to having chosen the Wii60 route last generation. As the generation reached its twilight and The Last of Us was released I shelled out and got a pre-owned PS3 off of eBay and a new copy of the game (despite having a 15,000 word dissertation to finish at the time). By this point the PS3 had come a long way from the unfriendly beast that took forever to do anything useful, this was also greatly helped by PS Plus allowing for background updates to take place whilst you sleep and then all of those “free” games to bolster your library, which is particularly helpful when getting a new system.

Needless to say I was very happy with my new console, but due to University commitments and new releases on the other systems I own I was content with the offerings on PS Plus. Since the arrival of the next gen (this gen) obviously new titles on the older systems have decreased (although not too dramatically) and this have given me the opportunity to go through the series’ that I have missed out on. This has seen me go through most of Metal Gear Solid and this is being broken up with playthroughs of Uncharted.

Earlier this week I finished the original Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. The thing is, this wasn’t actually the first Uncharted game that I have played, as last year I played Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the Vita (again due to PS Plus). It was an enjoyable game and the use of the systems unique features were still enjoyable despite being rather gimmicky. I had heard about Drake’s tendency to end up becoming a mass murderer in each title, but you need to play it to truly understand just how many people he kills. Golden Abyss thankfully had quite a lot of platforming and puzzle solving to break up the shooting so on the whole the killing didn’t seem too bad, but it did make the sections with massive amounts of enemies seem more bizarre.

When I began the first title in the series I assumed that the way in which the game would be spread out would be mostly similar to that of Golden Abyss, however this was not the case. The Uncharted games might be described as an Indiana Jones style action adventure game, but this particular game is very much a cover based third person shooter. There are moments of puzzle solving, but these never equate to anything more than matching symbols in the environment to how they are displayed in a book. Also whilst there are platforming sections, they aren’t too frequent nor are they enjoyable. That’s not to say that they are bad or annoying, but at this stage in the series they are underdeveloped and the camera angles were sometimes a hindrance.

The amount of violence in videogames is always an issue that comes up and is argued about. The weird thing about Uncharted is that it’s violent due to the sheer amount of killing that Drake doles out, but at the same time it is not a violent game. I realise this doesn’t make much sense, but hear me out. Just because there is a lot of shooting, killing is never the focus. During the cutscenes it is rare to see someone actually killed, and when they are it is mostly via an indirect way and is very similar to the way characters die at the end of a 12A (PG13) film. Also when Drake kills someone during the gameplay he will also make a comical quip that doesn’t make much sense, such as; ‘that’s going to hurt in the morning’. No Drake, it won’t hurt in the morning because he is already dead. This is not a game that takes itself too seriously, it is a somewhat comical romp through historic ruins to find lost treasure. The writing and pacing support this as much as is necessary.

As someone who comes from a place that Sir Francis Drake has had a significant cultural impact on, the underlying story involving the legendary navigator/privateer helped to grab my attention early on. Even though he does not play a big role in the overall story as he has to share plot time with the past deeds of the Nazi’s as well. Seeing Nathan’s changing understanding of his alleged distant relative was interesting enough to help keep me involved.

The original Uncharted is very much a game of its time, a third person shooter that isn’t exactly unique, but does enough to differentiate itself from other similar titles. The shooting may still be an issue, but it was probably deemed a safer way to get people into the series whilst exposing them to the central character of Nathan Drake. Nolan North is a man of many voices, and importantly many different types of characters. Here he brings Nathan to life as a comical but believable character that despite obvious comparisons with Indiana Jones is very much his own character. Regardless of the number of mercenaries that Nathan puts down, he is still a likeable character and one that the player wants to succeed.

Uncharted provided an enjoyable experience, but nothing too memorable, yet I’m looking forward to continuing with the series to see how it grows. I am especially looking forward to Among Thieves as the games designer and writer Neil Druckmann went onto make the excellent The Last of Us so it will be interesting to see what concepts were carried over.

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